As the body politic emerges from anguished stupefaction, Penguin has fired up the presses in order to churn out 75,000 new copies of 1984. I work in a library, and we cannot keep this title on the shelf. Patrons request it as a cleanse of sorts…get the Kardashians out of the house, put a ban on Fox News (yes, even Chris Wallace) or MSNBC (yes, even Rachel Maddow), finish your latest Facebook rant, ignore Instagram and Snapchat and for heaven’s sake, eschew Twitter, make a cup of Orwellian tea and begin—“It was a bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
If we read or re-read 1984, will the scales fall from our eyes? Will we begin to comprehend, as Dorothy Parker would say, this new “fresh hell”? Or will we recognize it for the stale hell that it is, the hell that has been grinding itself out since Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” got all its fingers broken by a big old hammer called “greed,” the hell that is furthered along by misuse of language and perception.
The big problem is that we live in a thinly disguised plutocracy, fronted by a meritocracy. The inexorable trudge towards the U.S.’s commitment to hand over the reins of power to large corporations and banks has been fast-tracked for decades (union degradation, bank deregulation, so-called “welfare reform”, for-profit prisons, massive sums of money in the political process, college too expensive to be borne, no universal health care and a widening gap in opportunity for all but the meritocracy and the plutocracy) and we, the citizens of this country, are pointing the finger of blame at foes who are, in many cases, even more disenfranchised, marginalized and beaten down than we are. Unfortunately, the meritocracy is where the press and the media have been firmly ensconced since the JFK White House and it has taken Donald Trump, the antithesis of the magical Kennedys and the beautiful Obamas, to wake them up.
But are they awake? Or just pissed off that the current denizen of the White House has given notice that he doesn’t need the meritocracy. If you look at his cabinet, he’s gone straight to the plutocracy. “Alternative facts” could have come right from the pages of 1984 if Orwell had been into on-the-nose writing. Chris Hedges needs to start an end times journalism school and journalists must go back and scour their own reporting on all the issues mentioned above. They must stop schmoozing with power in order to obtain “access” and with each other for affirmation. They absolutely must get over the fact that Washington D.C. is not a place where they can comfortably live and move and have their being. It is a place they need to cover. Democracy (if it still has a pulse) depends on it.
The hour is late. It fast approaches thirteen o’clock.